By/par Chris Wilson
(Cassiopeia – Autumn/l’automne 2016)
This update contains three main points: (1) an update on current programs at the JCMT, particularly the new large programs; (2) the endorsement by the Long Range Plan Implementation Committee (LRPIC) of continued university involvement in the JCMT; and (3) plans for how to continue this university involvement.
(1) Current programs at the JCMT: The past 18 months have been a busy and exciting time for the JCMT. As many of you may know, the operation of the JCMT was taken over by East Asian Observatories (EAO) in March 2015. A consortium of 6 Canadian universities has been contributing a small amount of funding (~2% of the total JCMT operations costs) under a two-year agreement with EAO in return for access to observing time and participation in the new large programs. The JCMT archive also continues to reside at the CADC. A consortium of universities in the U.K. has a similar three-year agreement that contributes roughly 20% of JCMT operations costs.
Since the EAO took over JCMT operations, they have issued a call for Large Programs as well as four regular calls for PI programs and have also completed commissioning of the Canadian built polarimeter on SCUBA-2. There are seven large programs approved and running on the JCMT at the moment, most with substantial Canadian leadership and participation. These programs include a transient search for variable protostars, mapping magnetic fields in star-forming regions (BISTRO), a large survey of dust and gas in nearby galaxies from the H-ATLAS and MaNGA surveys (JINGLE, see Figure 1), and a deep continuum map of high redshift sources in the COSMOS field. Observations have been progressing extremely well in this past year and some of the large programs may have obtained all their data by the end of this calendar year. More details on the current large programs can be found here and in the recent JCMT newsletter.
There will be a JCMT User's Meeting in Nanjing, China February 13-14, 2017. A primary focus of this meeting is to discuss the current Large Programs on the JCMT as well as the potential for new Large Programs that will be included in the 17B call for proposals in March 2017. More information about the User's Meeting is available on the JCMT web page.
(2) Open letter to the LRPIC and their response: After the CASCA meeting this past June in Winnipeg, a group of interested astronomers held a short meeting to discuss the status and future of Canadian submillimetre astronomy. This resulted in an open letter to the LRPIC about our discussions that concluded with three broad principles: the need for continued access to the JCMT beyond the January 2017 end of the current agreement and the intention of individual astronomers to seek the necessary funding; the intent of individual community members to seek to participate in CCAT-p, a planned 6 m telescope on the proposed CCAT site; and the intent of the submillimetre community to defer the question of how to achieve access to a next generation submillimetre telescope to the next LRP process that will begin in 2019. This statement of priorities has been fully endorsed by the LRPIC, who stated “Given the uncertain way forward for the CCAT, we agree that access to the JCMT will remain very important to the community for some time to come, and likely for the rest of the current LRP decade. We applaud the efforts of the Universities who have negotiated the present arrangement, and hope that it will continue to provide access to JCMT. We also support continued Canadian involvement as the CCAT plans evolve.” The full letter and the LRPIC's response are posted in the LRPIC area of the CASCA web site.
(3) Extending Canadian JCMT access beyond January 2017: The current Canadian consortium consists of the universities of Alberta, Lethbridge, McMaster, Waterloo, Western, and Saint Mary's. The initial two year agreement with EAO consisted of a financial contribution of $107,000 (Cdn) per year, with the money contributed by the individual universities and/or individuals in amounts ranging from $5,000 to $30,000 per year. We are exploring a number of options for extending this agreement, including an additional round of cash contributions from individual universities and up to three proposals to the NSERC RTI program to purchase small pieces of equipment for the JCMT. We will also be submitting a request for operations funding to NSERC under the newly announced pilot RTI program for Operations and Maintenance Support for Research Equipment. Continued access to the JCMT by Canadians depends on our success in one or more of these options. If anyone is interested in contributing to these efforts, for example by joining the university consortium, I urge you to get in touch with me as soon as possible.